January 21, 2012 Updated: July 3, 2013 at 9:34 am
FOUNTAIN – John Rork didn’t mind the glare of the mid-afternoon sun, especially after a malfunctioning pump forced the cancellation of last year’s Trojan Invitational.
“Mechanically, things seem in good shape,” said the longtime Fountain-Fort Carson swim coach during Saturday’s finals, leaning over the knock on a nearby metal locker with nothing made of wood in the vicinity. “Shades are on my wish list, to be able to drive down that glare, but we’re just excited to be able to have the event again.”
The two-day event, held at Fountain-Fort Carson High School, attracted teams from 14 schools from La Junta to Denver, displaying a range of skills from state qualifiers to those just happy to be back after qualifying on Friday night.
St. Mary’s senior Heather Black, a 4A state qualifier in the 500-yard freestyle, recorded the fastest time Friday in her signature event as well as the 200 freestyle. She came back Saturday to win both in convincing fashion.
“Being the favorite, I didn’t see that as pressure,” Black said. “That encourages me to go faster.”
Black touched nearly 3 seconds ahead of Widefield’s Kayla Kuecker, then later recorded a 22-second victory in the 500.
Fountain Valley diver Maia Presti finished second at last year’s 4A state meet and seemed poised to make a run at the state title this season. However, Presti suffered a torn ACL during soccer season and missed a summer’s worth of training.
On Saturday, Presti won the diving title as she continued to look forward to the state meet in three weeks in Thornton.
“I think considering I missed so much time after the injury, things are progressing,” Presti said. “I think I can still get to the top and win state, but I really wanted to practice over the summer so I could keep improving. Right now, I think I’m at kind of the same point now I was when I got second at state. With a few harder dives, I’m hoping that will help a lot.”
Widefield freshman Carmen Mena still has work to do if she wants to join Black and Presti at the state meet. The 14-year-old won individual titles in the 200 individual medley and 100 butterfly but failed to record state-qualifying times.
Still, she remained upbeat.
“This year is going well,” Mena said. “I think I can still improve and make state. I’m 3 seconds away in the fly and keep improving from swimming in club. Overall, I’m where I want to be, but I am a little impatient.”